- Guest Author -
Welcome to an interview conducted with another American author.
Welcome, Alan ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I am a full time writer devoting 50 - 80 hours a week on writing, rewriting and marketing my books. Fortunately, this is something that I can do from home, so I work (mostly) in my jammies. I will admit that I put on pants when I go out to do a book signing or a speaking engagement.
I am in the middle of editing a new military scifi novel Empty Space. It is about a young man who is screwed by the very military he has sworn to obey. Disgraced and discarded, the military will soon learn they screwed with the wrong guy. I am also doing a major rewrite on a historical fiction novel The Stolen Prize. It is set in 751CE in and around the Black Sea. Mutiny, murder, and revenge! Plus, (whew!) I have started to write a sequel to my #1 bestselling novel Metal Boxes.
I have 9 books available on Amazon. I believe that word of mouth is the best advertisement possible, but I have to make my books known or they don’t have anything to talk able. So, I promote all 9 all the time.
My business plan gives our vision statement as “We want our readers amazed they missed sleep because they could not put down one of our books. We want our readers amazed we made them laugh on one page and cry on the next. We want to give our readers a pleasurable respite from the cares of the world for a few hours. We want to offer stories we would want to read.”
Our Mission statement sums up why I write what I write. “Our business is to write top notch imaginative novels of all genres to capture a reader’s attention and enjoyment. We will cater to readers of all ages. We will work to stimulate readers and authors to greater imaginative efforts.”
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I started the first novel I completed in 1996. It took me 2 years to finish. I didn’t start writing full time until February 2014.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I started my first novel with an extensive outline. That is what I had been taught. I had been told that was the only way. About halfway through the book, I couldn’t make the story follow the outline anymore and I caught myself spending more time updating the outline than I did writing the story, so I threw the outline away. Now, I know where I am going to start, where I want to go and about how long I want to take to get there. Then I pants it the whole way through.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Remember from above? The no pants thing?
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Finding the time to write. Seriously.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I have done...um...a lot: I have been a busboy, dishwasher, daily farm laborer, line cook, barback, radio communications analysis as an Air Force vet, insurance salesman, used car salesman, HVAC assistant, turd wrangles assistant, bill collector, car repoman, meat cutter, grocery clerk, business news reported, purchasing agent, and telephone customer service representative
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
One of my scifi books Metal Boxes hit #1 on Amazon.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
Empty Space is my next published book should be out in March of 2015. It has a main character that is a bit different for me. He is a young man, abandoned to a government orphanage, abused and molested, forced into the military, and then stabbed in the back by the system that was supposed to protect him. He is also a sociopathic serial killer.
Strictly speaking it is military scifi.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I get my ideas from the same place that every author does. There is a big book in the library with every unused story idea. All you have to do is go select one. Then you show the librarian the idea you selected and s/he marks it off so no one else uses it.
Actually, ideas come from everywhere and anywhere. Newspapers, television commercials, conversations in elevators and even from watching clouds while taking a long walk.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
I am uni-genre-phobic. I have already published 4 scifi, 1 western, 1 contemporary action/adventure and 3 Christian fiction set in 1920 Ozark Mountains. I have 9 more books that are unpublished and awaiting their turn in the editing/formatting/cover generation pipeline. 3 are scifi, 3 are Christian fiction set in 1925 Ozark Mountains, 1 is The Stolen Prize (as mentioned above), 1 is a western and 1 is a non-fiction how-to book.
Having said that, they are not as far apart in genre as they sound. The location changes, not the type of story.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
So much advice. So little time.
#1 rule of writing fiction: There are no rules to writing. Oh sure, editors have rules, agents have rules, publishers have rules, booksellers have rules, and even readers have rules. But, write what you want and how you want. You will be happier for it, even if you have to make a few changes later to make everyone else happy.
#2 Never quit writing unless your protagonist is in trouble. This will help you avoid writer’s block and help you get back to writing.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Nope. Because I follow rule #2 from above.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
Nope. As a full time writer, I sit and write whenever there isn’t anything good on television.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
I have a home office. It is for writing, nothing else. I control distractions and as I said, I can get there without any traffic snarls.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Finishing a good story.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
Robert Heinlein. His early works are genius and he led a generation of scifi readers into the genre.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
I had a reviewer say the following: “The Friendship Stones by Alan Black is one of the most beautifully written tales I have ever read, part historical fiction, part inspirational reading, part coming of age, told through the mind and heart of a twelve-year-old girl, the innocence of youth and the times shines through like a glittering diamond.”
Really! I cut this from her review on Amazon. She is also one of Amazon’s Top Reviewers. Really! I didn’t pay her or nothing like that. I haven’t even met the woman. Honest.
Alan Black took me to a time and place I have never been to and yet, I could see it plainly in my mind, the simple joys of life and giving and being happy with what one has, while struggling to survive. Let go of your mind’s control and you will experience the dusty roads, the rocky fields and poverty that is all these people have known. There is no fast action, no great adventure, no thunderous preaching, just a journey that can be savored and reveled in through the eyes and heart of young LillieBeth.
Had I missed reading The Friendship Stones I would have missed some of the magic of books.
Had I missed reading The Friendship Stones I would have missed some of the magic of books.
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I had a review give me a one star review on Amazon for Metal Boxes, “I thought this was supposed to be sci-fi, not a story about lesbians!” I have read the book 17 times and I can’t find a lesbian anywhere. Not that I have a problem with gay or lesbian, it just ain’t in this book. Makes me wonder where his head was at.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
I firmly believe that an author reveals more of him/herself that most are willing to admit. My Ozark Mountain Series (The Friendship Stones, The Granite Heart, & The Heaviest Rock) all leans very heavily on the memories of my 84-year-old co-author Bernice Knight. That was the initial point of the books in the first place. We took her memories and fictionalized them, twisting in other fictional elements as there were things she wanted to share, but didn’t want her great grandchildren to read that some of the really nasty things had actually happened.
That series was specifically designed to fictionalize factual occurrences. However, even the most bizarre science fiction must have something from my past that I can relate to. If I cannot relate to the story on an emotional level, how can I expect my readers to feel that emotion?
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
My wife of almost 38 years.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Nope. I am fortunate in that my wife does it for me.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
I’ll let you know when it happens.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
My wife. Not only is she my best friend, but she is an expert in survival, having taught escape and evasion to pilots in the Air Force. She can’t cook worth a damn, but she sure could find me something that I could kill, gut and cook.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Take a course in how to listen. Really! Learn to listen more and talk less.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I have 9 books on the shelf that need publishing. After that? Well, I have more books to write.
26. WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
Bullinger’s Figures of Speech
Bullinger’s Witness of the Stars
And any Dr. Suess book ever written.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
I see myself in all of my characters. In fact, I write myself into a lot of my books. You can spot me because I am the short, fat, bald old man with glasses. Every book needs a character that looks like me.
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Dear God! How could it not? We are in the middle of an industry flux. Booksellers are going out of business so fast that readers don’t have anywhere to go. Publishers are dying and merging at an apocalyptic rate. Agents are so worried about new writers that they only want to bring on ‘the sure thing’. And the world’s biggest book seller also sells cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew and underwear. Writers are criticized for stepping outside of the best selling genre, yet genre catagories are changing and expanding faster than booksellers can keep up.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Nope. I have the best job in the world.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
My next one is always my favorite. I know I will never write ‘the great American novel’. That isn’t what I do, nor do I want to. I am an entertainer and I believe that my next book will be entertaining, nothing more than that. I’ve had readers and reviews say how they really ‘got’ my message. Jeez, I didn’t know I had a message.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
It is all about having a fun time at your book launch party. Nothing more than that.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
I want them to know my name and go buy another of my books.
33. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
A lot more thought should be given to the cover than I ever give it. We all know that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but readers do it every time they buy a book. I pick a picture that I like and send it to my cover designer with the instructions to make the words readable from across the room. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t
34. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
NY Times Best Seller list?
Nope. I want to see someone laugh out loud when I see them reading one of my books in the airport waiting for a flight.
35. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
I spend about 50% of my time now doing marketing through social media, book signing events, and speaking engagements. It isn’t what writing is all about, but if I want anyone to read what I write, then it must be done.
36. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
Yes. I published my first three books through a small publisher. It was a horrible experience and when they folded, I had to get lawyers involved to get my books back. I have self published the last 9 and I like the control over my own work.
37. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Short, fat, bald, old, glasses.
Ain’t that the height of sexy?
38. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
That is hard to say. I know it covers a multitude of sins but I will just say Human Stupidity.
39. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
You mean besides mine? They are good, honest! Would I lie about that? Okay, as of this morning the last good book was Alexander Outland: Space Pirate by G.J.(Gini) Koch. I laughed until I cried AND wet my pants at the same time. Of course, I’m old, so leaking may be a matter of age. Who knows?
40. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
Bob ran from the building in panic. He knew he couldn’t outrun the—
I plan on going either in my sleep or in the middle of a sentence.
41. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
Chocolate? Yeah, if I had chocolate right now, I would be happier and I would be glad to share.
42. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
You know, I never really got the hang of adding fractions. I should have paid more attention in the 5th grade. I could add fractions AND I might know what a dangling participle was.
Clancy's comment: Thanks, Alan. Good luck!